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$229m ‘new money’ for Earn of Learn emergency relief skimmed off existing programs

The Australian Greens said today that last night's additional Community Affairs Senate Estimates hearings has demonstrated that the Government has taken money away from vital community services, including emergency relief, into order to announce funding to offset the harm caused by their tough ‘earn or learn' regime in the Federal Budget.

"The Government is relying heavily on hocus-pocus to pretend that the $229 million they've announce for emergency relief to address the harmful impacts of their ‘earn or learn' regime is new money, when in reality, it is being taken out of the existing funding pool available to the community sector," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services said today.

"This $229 million over four years will fund the 550,000 applications for emergency relief the Government expects to result from their Earn or Learn policy, under which people will face up to six months or more at a time without income support.

"This announcement was used by the Government to hide the cruelty of their budget, but on examination, it is clear that this is not ‘new money' as we were told during budget estimates, but rather, it is funding that has been skimmed off the top of existing programs.

"We know that the Government is achieving savings of $240 million over four years by ‘reforming' the discretionary grant programmes within the Department of Social Services. By pooling old programs together, the Government is taking money out of these grants and pretend it is a new investment.

"The reality is that early intervention, family programs and financial counselling face are being cut over the coming years as a result of this approach.

"In estimates last night the Government was unable to tell us where the cuts to grants were coming from, and I am very concerned that community organisations around the country will have a tough time working out what is going on and making new applications for funding.

"Taking money out of a range of community programs will hurt those affected by ‘earn or learn' in the long run, and will also harm everyone else who this funding helps.

"It is obvious that this is a decision from the Government that this is not based on merit or the changing needs of the community. This is a short term decision to make cuts without any evidence, all in the name of addressing their invented budget emergency," Senator Siewert concluded.

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